Often when I review nutrition journals I come across articles that are constantly referencing to frequent eating out and huge restaurant portions as leading causes of obesity. I’m totally in agreement with these studies and I’m personally aware that my dining out is often to the detriment of my own waistline.
So, when my patients want advice for taking off those extra pounds, this is what I tell them: start cooking your meals at home.
Grilling some chicken or roasting a piece of fish at home not only means you’ll control the salt and fat, but it also gives you the opportunity to gain major health benefits with herbs and spices.
These powerful seasonings pack big flavor into your cooking, while naturally helping with a wide array of health problems. Let’s look at some of the surprising benefits of herbs and spices.
When you flavor food with fresh herbs and spices instead of salt and fat, you cut out sodium and a lot of extra calories. Instead of using a pat of butter to flavor salmon, for example, sprinkle on a mixture of fresh parsley and basil and a dash of paprika to replace the saturated fat. After preparing a few meals this way, you won’t even miss it.
Another simple way to help your weight loss efforts is to turn up the heat. A study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that adding just two teaspoons of dried chile pepper to food caused subjects to eat less calories and fat throughout the day. Try getting the same effect with hot sauce or fresh chiles, if you’re game.
Powerful Disease Fighters
Many herbs and spices fight serious conditions, and researchers are learning more about the benefits everyday. Rosemary, in particular, is an herb with the potent antioxidant, carnosol, which may help prevent certain cancers. Studies also show that rosemary can boost your memory power. Basil and oregano are two more herbs containing antioxidants that protect your cells.
Turmeric, the mild spice that gives curry its yellow color, has recently been shown to perform many beneficial functions. It may help fight Alzheimer’s Disease by reducing plaque deposits in the brain, and it contains anti-inflammatory properties that can shrink pre-cancerous legions called colon polyps. Turmeric also speeds up muscle recovery after a tough workout.
Garlic is not only a great flavor enhancer in cooking, but a useful tool for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Fennel seed, another powerful ingredient used in Italian cooking, has long been used to ease digestive spasms or bloating after large meals.
It makes an excellent tea with a mild licorice flavor. Ginger is another well-known stomach-helper, as long as it is real ginger and not the artificial flavor that is used in some ginger ales.
Your heart health can get a boost from cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and other “warm” spices (just think of the flavors typically found in pumpkin pie). These spices decrease blood pressure by helping blood to flow easily from the heart to the extremities of the body.
Cinnamon has even more health benefits. Studies suggest that it reduces cholesterol, regulates blood sugar fluctuations and has anti-clotting properties. One study even showed that just half a teaspoon a day could reduce arthritis pain.
I hope I’ve convinced you to start incorporating fresh herbs and spices into your cooking, whether you want to drop a few pounds or not. One last health bonus I forgot to mention: Chile peppers have been shown to brighten your mood because capsaicin, the compound responsible for their bite, encourages the brain to release feel-good endorphins. Who wouldn’t want to take advantage of that!
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Natural Health News